A Question of  Aston Villa Midfielders

 

Probably the biggest decision that Paul Lambert faces in terms of his team selection at Aston Villa is that of the midfield.

In the over-hyped frenzy of the final days of the transfer window most Villa fans were crying out for a creative midfielder to be signed, and with that not having happened, Lambert needs to solve the issue which seems to be splitting opinion amongst Villa fans the most – just which combination of players at Aston Villa should be considered the club’s first-choice midfield, at least until January? After posing the question to Villa fans on Twitter and Facebook, here’s MOMS’ attempt to solve the puzzle.

The only name from the list of Aston Villa midfielders which looks certain at the moment to be on Villa’s teamsheet week-in week-out is that of Fabian Delph, whose outstanding start to the season has been much talked about, and who simply cannot be dropped after his early-season form.

Lambert has preferred for much of his time as Villa manager to rely on a 4-3-3 formation, and although he is surely certain at some point after Christian Benteke’s return from a hopefully brief injury lay-off to try out the combination of the Belgian and Kozák up front, it will take a dramatic success in this regard for him to alter his tactics on a more permanent basis.

And to be honest, although some Villa fans have advocated its use, going 4-4-2 could be more problematic than beneficial for Villa.

For a start, there is a dearth of genuine wide midfielders at the club. Although an unused substitute at Carrow Road, Marc Albrighton has been told he is free to leave on loan; and Charles N’Zogbia is a long-term injury absentee but seems unlikely to be involved in Lambert’s plans anyway having been demoted to the regions of the Bomb Squad over the summer.

Assuming that 4-4-2 would be to fit in a partnership of Benteke and Kozák, Gabby Agbonlahor could well be utilised on the wing, a move which has both paid off and backfired in the past. Leandro Bacuna could be played wide at a stretch (although he appears to fancy himself as more of a box-to-box midfielder), but given the useful performance he put in at right-back in Matt Lowton’s absence at Carrow Road on Saturday, it seems likely that he may find himself used as a deputy in a variety of positions throughout the season.

Aleksandar Tonev’s performance on Saturday was simply not good enough. He drifted through the game without leaving any real mark on it, and although it’s always nice to see a player at Villa who fancies a shot, he needs serious work on his decision-making, as he seemed to have no plan other than to let fly speculatively.

Despite his ineffective display, Tonev should be considered as a long-term option when teams need breaking down at home or when there is space to exploit on the counter away from home, as given time, and with the right coaching, the Bulgarian has the feel of a player who possesses the potential to do a better job in a central creative role, spearheading the midfield, than out wide. [Page 2]

7 COMMENTS

  1. Paulhedley – enjoying that first post I see.

    For me I would love to see a 4-2-3-1 but I don’t think we have the no. 10 to play in the middle of the three. I hope he addresses this next summer and brings back Carruthers who will deputise in this slot. I would then be looking at a holding 2 of Westwood/Sylla alongside Delph (backed up by Gary G).

    In the absence of a no. 10, I would play:
    —————– Westy (KEA back up) —————–
    Sylla (Bacuna back up) ———– Delph

    in a 3 man midfield.

    You need energy to compete in the EPL and KEA doesn’t bring that so the only role I see for him is back up to Westy. Sylla and Westy can interchange during a game as Sylla has a better engine but Westy is more deft when further forward.

    This is the three that was at the heart of the really good run at the back end of last season and I don’t really understand why it has been given a decent run so far this season?

  2. paulhedley Sounds like you’re advocating a 4-2-3-1 at home. Ordinarily, I’d think of that as a more defensive “away” formation, but for Villa, the 4-3-3 away provides that fast counter attack threat that has worked well for us, and our inability to break down opposition defenses at home does make the idea of a slower attack with 4 key players up front instead of three a pretty good idea.
    In the 4-2-3-1, I think our best 2-line would be Sylla and Bacuna, or perhaps Sylla and Lowton, keeping Bacuna in the right back spot (first clean sheet in ages with him there), but could also see using Bennett or Luna on that line, as they are both better supporting the offense than actually defending. Baker can play a better defensive left back, but I think so could Clark, and Clark is a better passer and better going forward than Baker, so I’d use Baker in the center with Vlaar and use Clark on the left.Delph needs work on picking out the right pass and executing it precisely. If we could develop that vision and incisive passing, combined with his energy and dribbling skill, he could be a top notch center attacking mid. As it is though, it’s safer to use him as one of the DMs or possibly as one of the wings in a 4-2-3-1, though with his sometimes rash tackling, I’d hesitate to assign him a DM role.
    I’d start like this in our next home match:
    Guzan
    Bacuna  Vlaar  Baker  Clark
    Sylla  Luna
    Agbonlahor   Westwood   Delph
    Kozak (assuming Benteke’s still out)
    and I’d be prepared to bring on Helenius for Westwood in the 60th minute and sub out Delph (Albrighton or Weimann) or Sylla (KEA or Lowton) in the event of a yellow card.

  3. Interesting piece which has inspired a first ever comment on the site from me.I think that what’s most important is to develop a tactical flexibility which allows PL to pick a team based on the opposition, rather than turning out the same midfield every game. Given the away form over the last 8 months, there seems little point in changing formation from 4-3-3 and picking from Delph, Sylla, Wwood and KEA depending on form and fitness. I personally think is potentially the best of the lot and offers a better defensive shield. However, for “easier” home games, having a midfield 2 (take your pick of the above 4) behind a more advanced 3 to include the very talented Helenius as a playmaker would give a greater threat. The 2 wide attackers would be slightly more withdrawn than at present to ensure that we’re not outnumbered in the middle, but with license to advance when in possession.

  4. Interesting piece which has inspired a first ever comment on the site from me.
    I think that what’s most important is to develop a tactical flexibility which allows PL to pick a team based on the opposition, rather than turning out the same midfield every game. Given the away form over the last 8 months, there seems little point in changing formation from 4-3-3 and picking from Delph, Sylla, Wwood and KEA depending on form and fitness. I personally think is potentially the best of the lot and offers better defensive

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